You have probably read people makes a fortune through blogging. I read many bloggers who started blogging while working full-time and they are successful enough to quit their job and pursue blogging full-time. For me, I started this blog to get an extra income for going on a pilgrimage. You can read about it here. Whatever your reasons are, as long you put your mind and time into it, you will earn something. Either valuable lessons, or hopefully, some cash flow. I wrote a post about the benefits of blogging, you can read “7 Benefits of Blogging You Wish You Had Started Sooner” here.
Starting a blog in 2018 seems daunting for a newbie like me. There are so many blogs out there who have been through, “been there done that”, and so many things to learn. Many blogs that I read about ‘how to start a blog’ are written by bloggers who have been blogging for a few years. I’m not saying that those are not helpful, but as a new blogger without any blogging experience, I have to learn everything from the bottom. I’m not successful yet, but this past month I learned a lot about blogging and I would like to pass along information that I learned from the beginning of my blog life. Since it’s still fresh, I hope this guideline will help a beginner who wants to start a blog or any bloggers who want to monetize their blogs. This guideline will be a valuable insight for you who wants to start a blog in 2018.
To make it easier to focus on the tasks, I categorize the steps into six (6) main categories below:
- Building a blog
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. It means that I may receive a small commision if you purchase through the links. Please refer to my disclosure page for more info. Thank you for supporting my blog!
1. BE INSPIRED
I was inspired by Michelle Schroeder-Gardner from Making Sense for Cents, Katie Bower from Bower Power Blog, and many other successful bloggers. I have been reading Katie’s blog for a while. She has awesome step-by-step of how to do it yourself on house remodeling. And one thing that I like about her is that she’s so humble. She’s replying back to all comments. She inspired me. You should check out her blog, especially if you like to work on house projects. Michelle’s blog focus on personal finance. Right now, she makes like $100K a month with blogging business. If you haven’t heard her name, she’s the queen of affiliate marketing! I’ve been reading a lot of her posts non-stop for couple hours. Definitely, a blog to follow.
2. DO RESEARCH
In the earlier months of blogging, it’s not easy to think of spending money toward blogging courses (although it’s recommended if you want to grow your blog faster). There are tons of information out there to learn how to blog. But, remember not to compare your current state with other’s middle. Before I started, I read a lot of blogs and made notes what I learned. I’m the “old-school” type of person that I write down the notes on a notebook. It just helps me memorizing better. Here are the good topics you need to learn how to make a successful blog:
- Pinterest strategies – Pinterest is the popular search engines. The interesting part about Pinterest, it has lots of pretty images. Its just like having a photo book with tips and hacks in one source.
3. WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN (AKA BLOG PLAN)
If you want to make a business off your blog, you need to write a business plan. This will be handy too when you apply for a business banking account, affiliates, and so on. Keep it handy with you, so you can always go back to read. Some of the main questions that you need to ask yourself are:
- Which topics that you want to write on your blog? Do you have any specific niches that you like to write about?
- What’s your goal? What do you want to get from your blog? For me, this blog is for the creative outlet and hopefully gaining an extra income.
- How do you plan to publish a post?
- What tools or software you are going to use to write and organize your blog? Whichever you use, make sure you can have an access with you all the time.
- When are you planning to write?
- How often are you going to publish a post? This is important. If you want to have a follower, you need to create some consistency in publishing posts. It will hurt your blog if you write tons of post and publish it within a short period, then you forget it or not touching your blog for a while. A good rule of thumb for a starter to post at least once a week.
4. CREATE A TO-DO-LIST
Blogging is a lot of work. If you create a blog just for a hobby, you probably don’t have to care all business-related tasks. But, if you want to monetize the blog, it becomes ‘A to Z’ learning curve. Creating a to-do-list will help you prioritize the tasks you need to do in a short manner. It’s just like being a boss of your own. As you go through the list here, it will be beneficial to create an action plan.
5. GIVE YOURSELF TIME
Give yourself an ample time before launching your blog and use your time to write as many posts as you can. It will be good if you can have 10 posts by the time you launch your blog. This allocated time is for you to learn about blogging and prepare/make a concrete plan for it. Personally, I had 2-3 weeks before I launched my blog.
1. CHOOSE A GREAT NAME
Choose a name that will show your brand. Pick a simple, short, easy-to-remember name. Avoid using a hyphen or any symbols. Be creative! I spent a couple of days deciding for a name of my site. It might help to ask anyone you trust who will give honest answers (hint: sisters. Trust me, they are very honest and can be brutal at the same time). Just for a validation. But, in the end, you are the one who decides. One of the first steps to be your own boss.
2. CHECK TRADEMARK
Once you decided a name, check whether anyone already uses the name. One of the ways is to google the name you chose. If nothing that identical with your name comes up, then check trademark. You can check whether the name is still available or not here.
3. DESIGN A LOGO
Just like your name, a logo is your brand. Something simple, easy-to-remember, and attractive is always good. You will use your logo a lot: on your site, social media, and so on.
1. REGISTER YOUR BUSINESS
You can register your business on a State level or Federal level. You are automatically becoming a sole proprietorship when you have a small business (meaning you make money out of it). It’s better to register for LLC (Limited Limited Liability Company) as for the limitation of liability, compared with sole proprietorship which can take all your personal belongings if something bad happens to your business.
2. CHECK THE SBA REQUIREMENT
If you live in the U.S., you need to check the SBA (Small Business Administration) requirement in your state. You can get a local assistance for SBA here.
3. REGISTER FOR AN EIN
Register for an EIN (Employer Identification Number) is important when you have a business. Instead of providing your SSN (to fill out tax forms) every time you apply for an affiliate program, you can provide your EIN instead. If you want to read the checklist whether you need EIN, you can read it here. Click here if you want to apply for an EIN.
FTC (Federal Trade Commissions) required bloggers to disclose any money relationship that you have with sponsors. For example, if you are getting sponsored for writing a review of a product or service, you have to disclose it to your readers.
5. LEARN AND BE AWARE OF COPYRIGHT LAW
Learn about image copyright law, especially if you are going to use some pictures on your blog. If you just start a blog, you are probably wondering how people get pretty images in their blogs. The answers are the stock photos. But, there is a caveat of that. As bloggers, we need to be aware that every picture on the website is copyright protected unless it says otherwise. Don’t make a costly mistake by taking a picture online and put it on your blog to beautify your blog. There are some ugly cases that blogger need to pay a good chunk of money. I’m talking 4 digits of fine here and can be higher. Capella wrote great tips about how to avoid copyright infringement. You can read her article here. If you are not sure about anything, I’ll recommend you to talk to your attorney.
If you know you want to monetize your blog, treat your blog like a business. These are the steps that I took to start the business from day one.
1. WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN
A business plan is important as a guideline of how you want to do your business. You can find a guideline here how to write your business plan.
2. CREATE A BUSINESS BANKING ACCOUNT
By creating a business banking account, you can separate the income and expense that related to your blog. Set your affiliate income to your business account. It will make your life easier to track for your tax. In my bank, they asked me to provide EIN and document that shows I am the business owner.
3. CREATE A MASTER FOLDER
Set a place for you to store all things related to your blog, for example, a binder/drawer/file cabinet. For digital files, create a folder or several folders to store your files. I have subfolders for legal, finance, blog inspiration, blog tips, and image. Organized life increases productivity. You don’t want to lose your time looking for an important document.
4. SET UP A PAYPAL ACCOUNT
Set up a PayPal account and link it to your business account if you want to do transaction as many people use PayPal.
5. CHECK SALES TAX
If you are planning to sell a product or provide service on your site, you need to include the sales tax. You can find the sales tax rates here.
6. SET UP A PO BOX ADDRESS
If you don’t have a business address, set up a PO BOX address is a good idea. You want to keep you and your family privacy by not showing your residential address. In the U.S., if you are going to send a mailing list, you need to provide a valid address.
7. SET UP A BUDGET SPREADSHEET
Set up a budget spreadsheet to track your income and expenses. A legitimate expense that you spend for your blog may be able to use for a tax deduction.
8. ESTIMATE YOUR INCOME TAX
As a business owner, we need to pay tax quarterly when you receive income more than $400/year. Check with your tax advisor or accountant for formal advice.
9. SIGN UP FOR AFFILIATE PROGRAM
If you have a social media account, you can start signing up for affiliate programs. It sometimes takes a week or so to get a reply for your request.
10. SIGN UP FOR ADS
This one too, if you have a social media account, you can sign up for ads.
1. SIGN UP FOR SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS
A few top social media which are famous to bloggers are Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you want to focus on one social media, focus on Pinterest. Most blogs I read get traffics from Pinterest.
2. ADD SHARE BUTTON
Your reader will thank you if you have simple share buttons, easy for them to share to any social media. Make sure that share button is not on the way when people read the post. People will get annoyed and close or worse leave the post.
3. SET UP GOOGLE ANALYTIC
In order to set up google analytics, you need to have a Gmail address. I would personally create a new Gmail account for business purposes.
4. LEARN ABOUT SEO AND KEYWORDS
SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is important to increase your rank on google search engine. One of the ways to increase SEO is to always fill the metadata with keywords. I’m still learning about this, but I’ll share with you when I found success way to increase SEO.
5. CREATE A BUSINESS ACCOUNT ON PINTEREST
Pinterest is the top social media to get traffic for your blog. There are some options you can have when you have a business account on Pinterest. You can have Pinterest analytic where you can see what’s the top viewed pins.
BUILD YOUR BLOG
Okay, now after the long list above, LET’S DO IT AND DO IT RIGHT AT THE FIRST TIME. Here is step-by-step in building your website:
1. SELECT YOUR PLATFORM AND WEB HOSTING PROVIDER
If you want to monetize your blog, I strongly recommend using a self-hosted platform for your blog. Self-hosted WordPress is the most popular for blogger. Use WordPress.org for self-hosted one. Then, you need to decide which web hosting provider you want to use. I use BlueHost and I like it. I have no issues with it and it’s relatively cheap. You can start a business with a price of a cup of coffee! The other benefits using Bluehost that you can get Free SSL Certificates (https://) and a free domain name for the first year. SSL Certificates makes your website more secure. Click here to sign up for Bluehost and start your own blog. If you use this link, you will get the promo rate at $3.95/month.
If you click this link, it will bring you to Bluehost webpage.
After you select a plan, it will take you to a new page to get a domain name.
2. REGISTER DOMAIN NAME
As I mentioned before, if you are using this link you will get a free domain name for the first year.
Insert your domain name on the left side if you haven’t purchased yet, or on the right side if you have already purchased your domain name. Write your domain name on the blank field and click blue “next” button. My recommendation is to select the suffix “.com”. After you click the next button, it will take you to the Account Info page.
Enter your account info and enter your working email address. You need to have a valid email address in order to confirm and activate your domain. When you receive an e-mail from Bluehost (usually takes 2-24 hours), click the link to activate your new domain. After you fill and submit your account info, it will take you to the Package Information. You can select for 1-year/ 2-years/ 3-years plan. For me, the 3-year package seems the most economical in the long haul. If you want to reduce the cost, you can skip the extras.
Fill out your credit card info and click the green “submit” button. Don’t forget to keep the receipt for your tax deduction. After your purchase is complete, It will take you to a new page to create a password for your new account.
Select the green “Create your password” button and type your password in both fields. After that, click the blue “next” button.
Now, you are ready to design your website. Congratulations!
Click the blue “log in” button to get you started with WordPress.
3. START BUILDING YOUR WEBSITE WITH WORDPRESS
After you logged in, you can start building your website by clicking the blue “Start Building” button.
After log in to WordPress, it will take you to the new WordPress site like below.
If you want to exit the page and want to get back in, just log in to your Bluehost account and it will show this page.
After that, you can log in to your WordPress site.
4. PICK A THEME AND LAYOUT
Now that you have a domain, self-hosted platform, and web hosting plan, you can design your website. If you are pro, you can create a theme yourself. The easier route is to purchase a theme or get a free theme as a starter.
5. SELECT OPTIONS FOR APPEARANCE
After you have selected the theme, you can start working on the site layout by click on the left sidebar called “Appearance”, then click “Customize”.
Then, you can start customizing the theme. This is the fun part. One tip for WordPress beginner, make sure you are in a “Draft” mode. When your blog is ready, you can publish it.
6. CREATE MENUS
Menus can be divided into 3 sections: top menu, the primary menu, and social menu. A different theme will have different options. I used the top menu for static pages like About me, Contact us, etc. The primary menu is the “tab” where you separate those based on categories. If you want to have a static page, you insert the specific page into the primary menu. But, if you want to have a dynamic page where the latest post will shop on the top, you want to use categories.
7. CREATE CATEGORIES
If you want to create a category, Click “Posts” then click “Categories”.
8. CREATE AN EMAIL ADDRESS WITH YOUR DOMAIN
You want to create an e-mail address with your domain name to look more professional. Using an e-mail address with domain name makes the verification for affiliate programs application quicker too. After you create an e-mail address with your domain, you want to use this e-mail address primarily for your blog related business and for mailing lists.
9. CHANGE THE DEFAULT SETTINGS
Click “Settings” then click “General”. You can change the e-mail address that you used to create the Bluehost account with your new e-mail address with your domain name here.
After you go through the general settings, go to the “permalink”.
I like to set up the post URL using the title of the post. You can change the default setting and choose “Post Name” under “Common Settings”.
10. CHANGE THE DEFAULT USERNAME
This is another step to make your site more secure. By default, the username is “admin”. This is a target for hackers. You may want to change the username and change the password.
11. LOGOUT FROM WORDPRESS AND RE-LOG IN
To apply the changes that you made for settings, you need to log out and re-login with your new username. You can go back to WordPress site by typing yourdomainname.com/wp-login and log in with your username and password for the WordPress account.
12. CREATE A PAGE
13. WRITE A POST
You can add a new post by clicking “Posts” then click “Add New”.
Ideally, writing 10 posts before launching your blog will have sufficient posts for readers to “hang out” on your blog and give you momentum to start marketing and monetizing your blog. You can start implementing the strategies you learned during the planning process. Don’t forget to proofread with Grammarly before you published the posts. If you want to download the Grammarly button, you can click here and it will take you the Grammarly homepage. Click the green “Add to Chrome It’s free” button to download it. Then, you just need to create an account for Grammarly and always sign in. It’s so simple to use and it feels like you have an assistant to proofread your posts. It’s free. Definitely, recommend using Grammarly.
14. SIGN UP FOR E-MAIL SUBSCRIBER
I used Sumo for getting subscribers for free. It’s simple to set up.
15. LAUNCH YOUR BLOG
CONGRATULATIONS, you’ve made it!
Tips: always learning blog keep changing, need to stay up-to-date. It’s hard work. It’s hard work that you will spend a good amount of time a week, especially in the beginning. I do spend about 40 hours a week on top of my full-time job. Stay motivated!
Here are related posts for starting a blog.
Are you still reading? I know it’s a lot of information to put here. Let’s recap to refresh memory:
- Leave 2-3 weeks window for planning, researching and writing before you launch your blog.
- Write 10 initial posts (ideally).
- Make a business plan.
- Create your brand by choosing the name of the blog/site and designing your logo.
- Register your business.
- Check SBA requirement on your State.
- Register for an EIN.
- Set up a business banking account.
- Set up PayPal and link your business account to PayPal.
- Register for PO BOX address (if you don’t have any business address).
- Set up income/expense spreadsheet and keep track for tax.
- Sign up for affiliates.
- Sign up for ads.
- Select a platform for your website. Highly recommend Bluehost.
- Install WordPress.
- Pick a theme and arrange the layout you like.
- Select option for appearance.
- Create Menus.
- Create Categories.
- Write About Me page.
- Create Contact Us page.
- Write a Disclosure Policy page.
- Write Term of Use page.
- Change default settings.
- Change defaults users.
- Log out from WordPress and re-login.
- Write a post.
- Sign up for a subscriber service.
- Voila! Launch your blog!
*Disclaimer: I’m not Financial/Legal experts, this post contains my personal opinion. It may not work with everybody, but hopefully, it can help someone in starting a new blog.
Do you have any suggestions/tips for beginners on starting a blog? If you like it, don’t forget to share or leave a comment for me. Thank you!